Despite high crime rate, Delhi yet to set up women-only police stations
According to latest NCRB data, Delhi in 2021 saw an over 40% spike in crimes against women when compared to 2020, with two women being raped a day on average.
On October 27, 1973, Asia’s first all-women police station at Kozhikode, Kerala was inaugurated by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi — herself India’s first (and so far, only) woman PM. Since then, around 750 women’s police stations have been opened across the country.
Nearly fifty years down the line, however, Delhi is yet to see an all-women police station, despite the fact that the Capital usually tops the list of metropolitan cities in terms of cases of crimes against women.
According to the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, Delhi in 2021 saw a more than 40% spike in crimes against women when compared to 2020, with two women being raped a day on an average, making the national capital the most unsafe metropolitan city for women in India.
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Delhi Police data shows that between January 1 and July 15, 2022, a total of 1,100 rape and 1,705 molestation and sexual harassment cases were registered in the Capital.
The Delhi Police does have a unit that caters to women- and children-specific crimes — the Special Police Unit for Women and Children (SPUWAC), that has its headquarters at Nanakpura in south Delhi. This unit was formed with the aim to safeguard the rights of women and children in the city.
In practice, however, the unit mostly investigates matrimonial dispute-related cases and addresses cases of commercial exploitation and trafficking, says the website of SPUWAC.
The curious lack of women’s police stations in Delhi was first highlighted on March 14, when the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA), in response to a question in Lok Sabha by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Guwahati in Assam, Queen Oja, shared a list of all-women police stations in the country.
According to the list, as on January 1, 2022, there were 745 women police stations across 36 states (excluding Maharashtra, data for which was not available) and union territories. The MHA’s list mentions that the data was sourced from the bureau of police research and development (BPR&D).
Apart from Delhi, three other union territories do not have women’s police stations — Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, and Lakshadweep. There are no states that have zero women’s police stations, but Assam, Goa and Mizoram have one only women’s police station each.
The number of women’s police stations has increased significantly since 2013, when there were 479 such police stations in the country.
Police officers said the need for all-women police stations is felt across India in view of the rising number of crimes against women, and the fact that women victims feel uncomfortable in narrating their ordeal, especially sexual crimes, in front of male officers.
“The purpose is to provide a better environment to women in distress and to address their grievances sensitively. Also, women feel comfortable sharing their problems with women personnel. It has also been found that issues of women are handled more professionally by women personnel,” said a woman Delhi Police officer, who asked not to be named.
There are nearly 11,000 women personnel in the Delhi Police — about 15% of the total strength. At least 23 senior officers of deputy commissioner of police (DCP) or higher are currently women. Of them three are special commissioner of police such as Nuzhat Hassan, who is heading the vigilance and public transport safety division, Garima Bhatnagar, who is head of the intelligence wing, and Shalini Singh, who heads the economic offences wing. Chandan Chowdhary and Amrutha Guguloth are DCPs of south and east police districts.
In 2015, the central government had approved a 33% reservation for women in police forces of all union territories, including Delhi. At that time, the participation of women personnel in the Delhi Police was only 7%, and the number of women personnel has nearly doubled over the past seven years.
Over the years, there have been several attempts to start an all-women police station in Delhi — either by starting a brand-new police station, or by converting an existing police station — but these plans have fallen by the wayside, many serving and retired Delhi Police officers said.
“The first attempt to start a women-run police station was in 2004, when a decision was taken to turn the Maurice Nagar police station (near the Delhi University north campus) into an all-women police station. However, the plan could not be implemented due to differences in opinion among those within the police force,” a senior police officer posted at the Delhi Police headquarters said, requesting not to be identified.
Eventually in 2010, BK Gupta, the then Delhi Police commissioner, announced that he was planning to appoint a woman inspector as the station house officer (SHO) of the Maurice Nagar police station, post more women personnel there, set up help desks, and deploy more women on beat patrol. The idea of turning it into an all-women police station never worked as it was opposed by officers within the Delhi Police.
HT tried to reach Gupta through calls and a text message, but he declined to comment.
“The idea (for a women’s police station in Delhi) gained momentum in later years as well, as and when the city was rocked by serious crimes against women, including the December 16, 2012 gang-rape case,” the officer quoted above said.
In 2017, the Delhi Police had declared that their two important police stations – Maurice Nagar and Parliament Street -- will function as model police stations, equipped with senior officers and 33% women personnel — which would mean that both police stations would have at least two women inspectors.
However, the plan did not work and neither of the police stations has two women inspectors. Currently, the Parliament Street police station has three inspectors — all men — while the Maurice Nagar police station has two male inspectors and a woman inspector, according to the Delhi Police’s One Touch Away app.
HT spoke to some serving and retired Delhi Police officers and found that most were against the idea of having women police stations in Delhi.
Those against the idea pointed to the fact that the city already has more than 200 police stations — one every 4-6km — and opening all-women police stations will only add to the numbers of stations and may be an unnecessary use of resources.
“Frankly speaking, it would be the women who would be at a loss because they will have to travel a long distance to reach the respective women police station to lodge their complaint. And to address this issue, a large number of women police stations will be needed. Opening just one, two or even five such stations will make no difference,” said a deputy commissioner of police (DCP), who did not want to be identified.
Former Delhi Police commissioner Neeraj Kumar, who served as police chief from June 30, 2012 to July 31, 2013, said, “I have never been in favour of opening all-women police stations as the step is nothing but a gimmick to create a good image among citizens. The purpose of having such a police station is to deal with crimes against women in which the offenders are men. To conduct raids and catch male offenders, it’s important to have male police officers. Hence, the objective behind the idea fails. In Delhi, all police stations now have women help desks to help women in distress.”
Retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Rajan Bhagat, a former spokesperson of the Delhi Police, said there were efforts in the past to launch an all-women police station but the idea never worked. In 2008, Bhagat said, the crime against women (CAW) cell at Nanakpura was converted into an all-women police station to deal with all crimes against women. However, the move was rolled back within some days.
“The objective failed because the other police stations stopped accepting complaints of women-related crimes, including those as serious as rape and molestation, and directed all women complainants to visit the women’s police station. As a result, it became difficult for the women personnel posted there to deal with the complaints. When the matter was flagged, senior functionaries came to their rescue and issued an order, announcing that CAW police station will only deal with domestic violence complaints and cases,” said Bhagat.
Meanwhile, neighbouring Gurugram has three all-women police stations (including one in Manesar) to ensure women don’t have to travel far to register their complaints.
Gurugram police commissioner Kala Ramachandran said that the first all-women police station was set up in August 2015. “Earlier women used to visit regular police stations to file complaints, and some preferred not to visit them at all. Now they have an option to report a crime at the women’s police stations. This gives them confidence that they will be heard, and speedy justice will be served. Women have an empathetic connection with each other and hence find it easier to share their ordeal with fellow women,” she said.
Ramachandran added these police stations have a legal aid cell in case women want any legal intervention or advice.
A Delhi Police officer on the ground, who declined to be named, said, “In a city like Delhi, that is considered the most unsafe city for women in the country, opening up all-women police stations will certainly help in handling women-related cases professionally, and it will motivate more women to come forward and report their grievances. It may lead to a sudden spurt in the number of cases of crimes against women being registered, but at the same time, it will reflect the actual situation of women-related crimes in the city.”